Deliciously Cheap: Noodlehead


Daevan Mangalmurti, Writer


The streets of Bangkok are crowded places, full of the hustle and bustle of human life from the poorest slum-dwellers to the richest politicians. Despite their different existences, one thing unites these people: Bangkok street food. Thai street food is the purest flavors and tastes of Thai cuisine mixed into a few simple dishes. For the past few years, Noodlehead has successfully brought those flavors to Pittsburgh. Noodlehead is located on 242 South Highland Avenue, on the same strip of street as Millie’s and Mad Mex. The interior of the restaurant is designed with a sort of faux-rustic feel; weathered white boards form the walls and glossy irregular wood planks the seats. Noodlehead is a little irregular in that it both takes no reservations and has no phone to check how long the wait actually is. Combined with its immense popularity and cheap prices, lines to get into the restaurant can stretch for quite a while at night, so it’s best to get there early, usually before seven o’clock. The restaurant is cash only, but for those who forget that an ATM is provided in the back.

The defining criteria for inclusion in this column are being cheap and having foreign food. Noodlehead easily fits both. The plates offered there can be divided into three categories. The first are the $6 noodle soups. Of the two dishes offered in this category, my personal favorite is the Sukothai. This dish is made with rice noodles of the kind found in Pad Thai. Together with balls of pork, slightly crunchy green beans, and a hard-boiled egg the noodles are mixed into a flavorful broth, The Sukothai stands out because it combines great flavoring, mainly from the broth, with deliciously cooked pork (for vegetarians, tofu is easily substituted) and noodles that make it a satisfying dish for a winter day. The other type of entree offered by Noodlehead are the $9 noodles, which are slightly more filling for the increase in price. Of these my favorite is the Street Noodle 1. This is an extremely simple dish, made with fried chicken, rice noodles, bok choy, bean sprouts, and cilantro. It is dry, and most of the flavor comes from the way the chicken and rice noodles are cooked. As such, I strongly recommend this to people who love spicy food, since this type of dish really takes on and brings out spicy flavors. If spicy food is not up your alley the Chiang Mai Curry is a saucier noodle dish with a coconut milk base that is also delicious. Noodlehead also offers tasty Thai appetizers. For vegetarians the sweet potato triangles are small, samosa-like pieces of phyllo dough filled with smooth, slightly thick sweet potato. Combined with the refreshing tamarind-cucumber sauce they come with, these make for lovely light fare before the actual meal. The meat appetizers offered at Noodlehead are all tasty, and they use many of the same flavors as the main dishes, so they are worth getting if you aren’t inclined towards getting a whole dish, especially the Thai fried chicken and the pork belly steamed buns.